Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
National Watch and Clock Museum
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Panerai Watches
Source: Google News
Panerai sbarca nel Miami Design DistrictPambianconews, July 30th
I materiali protagonisti dello store sono il marmo, l'ottone e il legno che rispecchiano la storia di Officine Panerai. Numerosi i riferimenti all'universo marino, considerato il ruolo della marca nel fornire strumenti di precisione ai corpi...Read more
CdA, Panerai "CdA burocratico, ADV è in ottima forma"Fiorentina.it, July 29th
Giani E' il giorno del CdA in casa Fiorentina. Si farà il punto della situazione per la cessione di Gomez e sul mercato in entrata ed in uscita dei viola. Sono già arrivati all'interno della sede il direttore generale Andrea Rogg, Mario Panerai...Read more
Hands On The Panerai Radiomir 1940 Equation of Time 8 Days AcciaioHaute Time, July 28th
Panerai continued to impress this year, with a collection of novelties that displayed innovative materials such as the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech. But the brand also turned to stainless steel, its material par excellence, to introduce a...Read more
Over 70 boats took part in the 2015 Panerai British Classic WeekOn The Wight, July 26th
Another Bermudan Yawl taking part in the Panerai Regatta was 'Arqyll' built in 1948 by Olin Stephens and owned by TV personality Griff Rhys Jones, who also owns the sloop 'Undina'. Some years ago 'Argyll' underwent a restoration supervised by the ...Read more
Panerai British Classic Week – Leading Ladies on Day 4Sail World (press release), July 23rd
Day 4 of Panerai British Classic Week 2015 featured both race five of the formal racing series and the traditional Ladies Race. For Race 5 the boats were sent to the west in a building sea breeze for a great mainly windward/leeward romp. With a strong...Read more
Panerai British Classic Week 2015Cowes Online, July 21st
The sun returned on the third day of Panerai British Classic Week 2015 and the fleet enjoyed two spectacular round the cans races in the Western Solent, races three and four of the series. Whilst the classes raced separately in the morning they came...Read more
All set for Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week and the Panerai RegattaOn The Wight, July 16th
With two regattas being held during the same week this year, both the Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week and the Panerai Regatta will enable those keen on traditional boats to see some of the World's best. A number of unique and traditional yachts...Read more
Fiorentina: Panerai's outburst against Salah and Inter nothing to do with usAl-Bawaba, July 6th
Panerai sparked controversy when he published two separate Twitter outbursts on Sunday and hit out at Inter, who are reportedly set to prise the Egypt international away from Stamford Bridge. He began by calling on the Italian Olympic Committee...Read more